Every year when the appraisal district sends out appraisal notices to the homeowners of El Paso, many complain about the raising taxes. The Central Appraisal District is usually the entity that is blamed for the high taxes in the community. However, as the CAD likes to point out, it is not they who sets the tax rates that result in the taxes but the taxing entities that use the tax monies.
The Central Appraisal District was established in 1981 under a Texas Legislature law adopted in 1979. (SB 621) The Central Appraisal District is responsible for establishing the value of all real estate property and business personal property located in the County of El Paso. From this appraisal roll the taxes collected by each taxing entity is identified.
There are currently 30 active tax jurisdictions in the county.
The Central Appraisal District is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of nine members. The nine members are appointed by the governing body of the county, the cities and school districts in the county. As far back as I can remember the city has appointed two members to the board from its elected officials.
The two current city representatives are Ann Morgan Lilly and Cortney Niland.
Niland was appointed at the behest of Oscar Leeser on May 7, 2013 to fill Eddie Holguin’s unexpired term. On March 18, 2014, city council reappointed her to the board.
According to the Central Appraisal District minutes, there have been a total of 14 meetings since Niland’s appointment on May 7. Niland missed the first two meetings she was eligible to attend – May 9 and June 13, 2013. The EPCAD board meetings reflect that Niland attended her first meeting on August 8, 2013. She then attended the next meeting on September 18, 2013.
Of the 14 meetings that have been held since Niland’s appointment, four do not have minutes available for them making it difficult to determine whether Niland attended those meetings. However, of the 10 other meetings that Niland was supposed to attend, the minutes show that she missed eight of those meetings. She has not attended any meetings in 2014, according to the published minutes.
Although there are no minutes published for four of the meetings it is likely that Cortney Niland missed those meetings as well.
Cortney Niland attended less than 20% of the meetings she was expected to attend on the behalf of the taxpayers of the community. Niland continually pontificates about holding the lines on taxes for property owners however when it comes to representing those same taxpayers on the entity that sets their value she has been too busy to attend the meetings.
Notice, that on March 8, 2014 she was reappointed to the board by city council. According to the minutes of that meeting, there was no discussion about her appointment to the board. Yet, Niland had already missed five consecutive meetings of the appraisal district, and apparently had no problem accepting her reappointment to that board.
Last Thursday, Niland is quoted by Diana Washington Valdez in an article about the appraisal district as stating that she resigned from the board “two months ago”. Valdez also quotes Oscar Leeser as stating that “since being notified” he has “reached out to the business community to solicit recommendations for the vacancy”.
Although board members to the appraisal board tend to have been elected officials, the legislature does not require it. Earlier this year, in July, Richard Dayoub, on behalf of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce issued a call for government leaders to appoint “experts” to the board. It appears that Leeser has heeded that call.
However, back to Niland, did she really resign two months ago?
Last Thursday I submitted an open records request asking for a copy of a memorandum, or email to the mayor notifying him that she has resigned. I expect it will be a week or two before I get a response. We will not know if she actually resigned until then, or if her quote was nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to being called out by the news media for her absences.
Even if we accept that she resigned “two months” ago, that does not explain why she missed about six meetings. In fact, she was reappointed to the board, after missing five meetings and then did not attend any further meetings. In one year and four months of her initial appointment and reappointment, Niland only attended two meetings.
Likewise, since being elected in 2011, Cortney Niland has missed 18 regular city council meetings.
Therefore next time Cortney Niland pontificates about holding the line on taxes for the taxpayer or adding fees to alleviate the pressure on the taxpayers of the city, ask yourself, where was she when she should have been working for you on holding the line on taxes?